President Fouad Shehab
Descendant of a wellborn Lebanese family who honorably took upon herself the duty of defending the country and resisting occupation for many centuries, he carried this inheritance, in mind and heart, and pursued the national march of his ancestors as an officer in the Orient Company struggling with his friends to liberate and achieve the independence of Lebanon. He reached his goals and yet deeply realized that preserving the perpetuity of independence is not less valuable than achieving it, thus he saw in his mind's eye a clear picture of the Army as an invincible fortress for the country apart from crisis that devastate it, and a clear picture of the country being on the same level of its people ambitions.
The leader Fouad Shehab is the first Army Commander after the Independence, who had the high merit of building the Army on eminent national principles, and noble human and moral values. This was possibly one of the main factors that enabled the Army to deal with the impacts of the domestic events that affected the country until present, and conserved it as a distinctive state establishment among others. Chief Fouad Shehab also is the third President following Independence, as his term was an important stage in the Lebanese political and national process and witnessed the building of state establishments, ensuring social equity, launching the development process, and raising the nation on different levels. He was like a falling star in the sky of Lebanon and the Arab Orient, in a critical period of national and regional transformations, and was able due to his wisdom and foresight to prevent the nation from big dangers, notably in putting aside the threat of civil war during the events of 1958.
He is the chief quiet, and the anonymous president who carried the pain and concerns of the entire nation, and refused to allow to himself what the “book” proscribed, he thus lived indifferent to life temptations and died devoted in his love for the nation and wanted to be covered with its soil. His accomplishments and giving will remain as golden sheets in the history of Lebanon, firmly established in the memory of next generations, resisting to the wind of change and oblivion…
1 - The life journey of President Emir Fouad Shehab
A- Family and Birth
-Emir Major General Fouad Shehab is a descendant of Emir Hassan, the elder brother of the High Emir Bashir Shehab.
-Was born on March 19 1902 in the town of Ghazir, Caza of Keserwan, and is the son of Emir Abdallah, son of Emir Hassan, son of Emir Abdallah, son of Emir Hassan, brother of the High Emir Bashir. His father had a second marriage with Badiha Taleb Hbeish and got three children, then emigrated to the United States of America in 1910 and did not give any news ever since, so Emir Fouad Shehab lived with his brothers Shakib and Farid and his mother Badiha in indigence.
-With the beginning of the 1914 war, the family of Emir Abdallah moved from Ghazir to Junieh, to live in the house of Taleb Hbeish, grandfather of President Shehab from his mother side. His uncles Sheikhs Badih and Wadih played an important role in his education and sent him to “Ghazir Marist Institute” in Junieh, next to their house. With the famine aggravation in Mount Lebanon, mainly in Keserwan, the young Fouad Shehab was obliged to work in the public administrations as a “crier” at the court of Junieh, where he was dressed in Kaki trousers and “Dama” shirt with no Jacket, and called in a very loud voice, at the beginning of every trial, the concerned parties in the charge, lawyers, litigants and witnesses.
-In 1926, while the young officer Fouad Shehab was executing military operations in Gabl Akrum, under the commandment of French officials, against the insurgence of Zayn Merhi Jafar, he met Ms. Rose Renee Boitiou, daughter of the spouse of the military garrison commander in the town of Endakt, the French Lieutenant Colonel Noiree, and got married to her in the same year at Saint Dumit convent in Kobeyat.
The father of Ms. Rose Renee was killed during the First World War, and her mother remarried Lieutenant Noiree.
-Passed away in 1973, in his house in Junieh, on 71 years old; the government and country paid the last honors to him, escorting him to his final resting at the family cemeteries in Ghazir, and all political, popular and intellectual milieus agreed to express their high regards for the big national role he played in the modern history of Lebanon.
B- To the Army
On December 12 1921, with the beginning of the French occupation, he enlisted in the military academy for special armies in the Orient, with enlisted people from honorable families, mainly the Shehab Emirs: Adel, Gamil, Bahig, Louis, Abdelkader…After a while, the French sent him to the military school established in Damascus, with some of his Lebanese colleagues, the following officers: Gamil Lahoud, Fouad Hbeish, Jean Aziz Gaziri, Iskandar Arakgi, Mohammad Al Yafi, Ali Al Hajj…these men are considered as the pioneers of the Lebanese military establishment.
On September 20 1923 he graduated as a Lieutenant, joined the first Syrian-Lebanese common brigade in the Alaouit country, and then was promoted to the rank of First Lieutenant before becoming a Captain.
On November 1930, he took the command of Rachaya position until February 5 1963, and on December 1937 he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and was designated as commander of the second hunters regiment.
In 1938, he moved to Paris and followed learning sessions at Saint Maxain, Chalone and Versailles and graduated from the high school of war in Paris, where he discovered that the European armies were so well organized and developed, what helped him afterwards to organize the Lebanese army.
On December 25 1942, he was promoted to the rank of Colonel, and in 1943 he took the command of the 5th mountain brigade, that included only Lebanese elements, and in 1944 he was promoted to the rank of chief and was designated to organize the special forces of the Orient.
C- During the Independence Struggle
The French Commandment was keeping an eye on the evolution of the national awake among the Lebanese enlisted, which began to widely expand on September 1936 when was established the first Lebanese company to execute military operations outside Lebanon, mainly in North Africa, thing that provoked the indignation of Lebanese officers who refused to carry out missions outside Lebanon. In the midst of the conflict between Vichy and De Gaulle forces in the Orient, a meeting was held at Zouk Michael on July 26 1941 gathering the elite of Lebanese officers where they ratified a document in which they pledged to serve only Lebanon and under its banner…conforming to French documents, general Fouad Shehab was considered as the first motivator and head manager of these deeds, who had lately supported the government of Bshamoun.
D- To the Command
On August 1 st 1945, after the mandate government delivered all its competences to the Lebanese authorities, including the first regiment of Lebanese hunters in the French army, President Bechara Al Khoury appointed Colonel Fouad Shehab at the head of the national army, while all parties confirmed him to be an excellent officer. Thus he allowed the army, along with other officers, to profit from the practices of order, discipline, morality, and the strict military education he had. Under his command great achievements were made, and through all his meetings with the officers, he succeeded to implant the commandment spirit in them, on the basis of the commander role as the “thinking head” before his men, as well as their ideal, and he sums up the officers role in the Lebanese army as follows:
-He is a field officer, prepared to defend the nation borders and sovereignty.
-He is a social officer who has the ability and the means to mix with Lebanese society.
-He is an exemplar officer, capable of leading discussions and holding conferences concerning different subjects, in other words a cultured officer.
President Shehab kept in his heart a constant longing for the army, even after quitting the military uniform and being elected as President, for the civil uniform did not prevent him from meeting colleagues from the army, as he liked to receive them very modestly in the Presidency headquarters. Through critical crisis that affected Lebanon, his colleagues, the officers in the army, would take advice and guidance from him, and were provided with his wise instructions, to get the right decisions in resolving problems.
E- Forced into Politics (1952)
On September 18 1952, as a result of the resignations of President Bechara Al Khoury and Prime Minister Saeb Salam, Major General Shehab undertook the Presidency of the temporary government by virtue of decree n.9443.
This government was exceptionally given the competences of the President of Republic Bechara Al Khoury temporarily for a 12 days period. This was the beginning of General Shehab journey in politics.
General Shehab spent the three first days, 18, 19, and 20 of September, at his office in the ministry of Defense, and did not go to his office at the Cabinet where he ought to be before September 21, accompanied by his personal secretary and his friend Captain Francois Genardy.
Camille Shanoun was elected President of Republic on September 23 1952, and on November 1956 General Shehab was appointed at the head of the ministry of Defense, with keeping the army command in the government of Sami Al Solh. On March 1 st 1957, he resigned from the ministry of Defense by virtue of decree 14622 and this ministry was attributed to PM Sami Al Solh.
F- To the Presidency (1958)
On August 31 1958, the Parliament elected Major General Fouad Shehab by majority of 48 voices against 7 voices for the other candidate, Raymond Edde. One of the closest men to the great men confirmed that he didn't aim for Presidency, but the evolution of the international and regional events urged him to take up this position after that the public opinion saw in him the only solution for salvation following the sixth months crisis in 1958, as trenches have been dug in the streets, markets closed, demonstrations organized, many officials assassinations attempts, and armed insurgence emerged. General Major Shehab refused at that time to take the army down to the streets to repress the revolution, keeping thus the army aside from political interactions between parties.
G- His Resignation on July 20 (1960)
While the country was enjoying relief due to the results of legislative elections that rectified the popular representation and led to the establishment of a Parliament that could cooperate with the new President, Lebanese people were surprised by the news on the Lebanese radio station announcing the resignation of the President of Republic Fouad Shehab, the creation of a temporary government, and the Parliament call to elect a new President. As much as Lebanese people were amazed by this news, the politicians were also shocked, as they were surprised by this unexpected or politically unjustified resignation; yet, after President Shehab paid farewell to the members of his government as soon as they were notified about the resignation submitted to the Parliament, and were delivered the decrees of accepting the Daouk government resignation, along with the designation of a provisional military government, he left the Presidency headquarters in Sarba to retire into his small house in Junieh.
In response to this fact, the people, leaders, and parliamentarians directly and spontaneously insisted on refusing his resignation and holding on to his Presidency, and consequently, the crowds gathered in the streets and squares surrounding the house of President Shehab.
Leaders and parliamentarians came in successive groups strongly claiming, all day long and till late hours of the night, to withdraw his resignation. Patriarch Mouchi also called him to ask him, in his name and in the name of all Maronite Patriarchs, to revoke his resignation, but President Shehab refused at first to receive the parliamentarians and the President of Parliament ahead, that came with a petition about revoking the resignation. While he had a firm attitude, he finally accepted to talk to them.
Afterwards, he came out declaring the withdrawal of his resignation in compliance with the wish of the people and parliamentarians. These parliamentarians left him up on their shoulders, thing that never happened in the modern history of Lebanon, applauding along with gunshots, expressing joy, resounding all over the country. Many wrote about the resignation of July 20 1960; some considered it as a national and political lesson of indifference to presidencies, or as a regard to the Presidency being a public profession or a mission accomplished when it reaches its aim, a lesson given by the “military man” Fouad Shehab to politicians and leaders.
Others considered the resignation as an indirect response to his opponents that accused him of seeking to reach Presidency through the position he took during the 1958 revolution.
No matter what the direct or deep reasons were, whether personal or by principal, the resignation of President Shehab and its revocation under the insistence of the country leaders, population and parliamentarians, is a special mark in the political history of Lebanon, and a lesson of indifference to high positions, and of morality while carrying out public duty.
2 - Some Principles of the Shehab Methodology
The President Fouad Shehab did not adopt any political ideology of those spread in Lebanon and the region or in the world, he did not enrolled in any political or ideological party when he was young, nor sought to create a political party after reaching the government and rallying a big number of supporters from politicians, technocrats, intellectuals and common people. But he followed main principles that he applied in his personal and public life, and inspired him in dealing with public affairs, above all the fear of god, being kind to others and preventing from hearting them, respecting humans, detesting violence, sticking to the principles of faith in god, whether in Christianity or Islam.
There is no doubt that descending from the Shehab family, that ruled Lebanon for a long term, had a big impact on his mind and soul, and made him stick to some principles such as the feeling of historical responsibility, the sense of ruling, of honor, and of being far above small matters, in addition to his deep conviction in social equity that sources from his faith in god. These principles became deep-rooted in him due to his adherence to the intellectual-political-human movement, which emerged in the West, and in France in particular before the Second World War, and continued to exist, and this what incited him to resort to Father Lubray, the international expert in global social development affairs.
There is no doubt also that the military life, most of which he spent in the Orient French Army as an officer respected from his superiors and subordinates, firmly fixed in him some principles and values that characterized him such as public service, quiet work, respect of order and law, and the methodology of studying and planning before execution.
Contrary to what some people implied concerning the President Shehab being uninterested in speech or in writing, he had a large knowledge due to newspapers, magazines and books that he constantly red ever since he was a young officer and after reaching the presidency of the Republic. Throughout his youth in the army, his notorious hobbies were restricted to reading, as this wide interest in cultural aspects was clear to those who assisted him in ruling or worked with him during the term of his presidency. He was also interested in science, scientific methods, planning, technologies, experience and specialization.
This is on the ideological, intellectual, and psychological level. As on the national and political level, President Shehab was also inspired by general principles on some of which he used to agree with his predecessors or partners of state or political men. Yet, he disagreed on some principles concerning national independence, sovereignty, national unity, anti racism and anti extremism, social equity, democracy, parliamentary system, setting apart the army from politics, the Arab belonging of Lebanon, openness to the West, the world and the period, restoring the state, refreshing the administration, building public establishments…and these are not “Shehab” principles, but the leader Fouad Shehab was the pioneer in calling for following them comparing to other political officials; He respected and executed these principles calling most Lebanese to adhere to them. The characteristic of President Shehab was that he did not only abide by and talked about them, but believed in them, and applied them whenever he could or whenever the circumstances allowed it to happen.
3 - Achievements during the President Term
Once clearing the aftereffects the unsuccessful attempt of the coup d’etat, and the popular pledge of allegiance for President Shehab yet again, along with the establishment the government, he felt relieved in working and cooperating with it. President Shehab decided to accelerate the implementation of reform and social projects that were the result of studies conducted by the Irfed delegation and other experts. Thus, the years 1962, 1963 and 1964 witnessed a new birth of a series of projects, regulations, and big establishments that Lebanon had never known before; the most important are the following:
- Regulation concerning organizing higher education
- Establishing the national council for tourism
- Organizing the ministry of Information
- Organizing the ministry of Planning
- Establishing the national council for scientific research
- Regulation of global civil Organization for all Lebannon
- Setting up the first public national plan for development
- Establishing the green project
- Setting up the regulation of currency and loan
- Establishing the Bank of Lebanon and inaugurating the building
- Establishing the national fund of Social Security
- Widening the governmental technical education
- Establishing the directorate of physical education and youth
- Regulating the foreign labor in Lebanon
- The general orientation plan for Beirut suburbs
- Organizing the high institute for teachers
- Establishing a cooperative for public sector employees
All these accomplishments came to complete those realized during the first three years of the Shehab term, and that can be summed up as follow:
- Establishing the administration of social welfare
- Establishing the international exhibition of Tripoli
- Establishing the council of implementing big projects
- Establishing the council of implementing big projects for Beirut city
- Office of fruits
- Office of wheat
- Reorganizing the administrations of water and electricity in the cities and regions
- Establishing the central inspection board
- Establishing the civil service board
- Reorganizing money inspection and accounting office
- Reorganizing the judiciary high council, state consultative council,judiciary studies institute and legal courts
- Establishing the law faculty in the Lebanese university
- Publishing the inheritance law for non Muslim Lebanese people
- Establishing the economical planning and development council
- Establishing the social development office
In this period, the following projects were accomplished as well:
- Establishing a part of the coast highway between Dbayeh and Maameltayn
- Establishing the highway of Zouk-Faraya
- Establishing the third basin of Beirut port
- Enlarging the international airport of Beirut
- Setting up the book of national education
- Building the Junieh port
- Carrying out a part of the global development plan covering all regions in water and electricity supply and paved roads to an important number of far towns in different regions
- Establishing a big number of Schools in far away towns and countries
The inauguration of the new building for command and general staff faculty named after the late President Fouad Shehab, a man of education, moral values and construction, is a matter of pride for the military establishment, and a reverence of respect and loyalty to the spirit of the great man who treasured it and took great pleasure in serving it, gave from his life to build and elevate it, and provided this establishment a great inheritance of sacrifice, loyalty and giving meanings; he will always remain an eternal consuming flame illuminating the path of the Army, generation after generation…